If You Think You Can't, Think Again


As sure as April showers bring May flowers, January brings resolutions. But don’t expect your life in 2014 to bloom without a little (or a lot) of hardwork.

While some online gurus might tell you to keep those resolutions simple– Woodie Guthie’s resolutions (see above) from 1942 included: “Wash teeth if any” and “Keep hope machine running,” we know some of you have set out to achieve loftier goals (we prefer this word to resolution). Take note of the following four people whose successes prove that nothing happens overnight, but hard-work, commitment, bravery, and patience are required.

1. Ernest Vincent Wright

Gadsby: A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter “E” is a 1939 novel by Ernest Vincent Wright. Wright set out to prove that a great author could pen an impressive story with serious restriction. To make sure he stayed on task, Wright tied down his typewriter’s ‘E’ key, and went pecking away, putting his vocabulary to the test. Can you imagine and entire book without the word ‘the?’ He manages to address World War 1, Prohibition, and President Harding’s administration. Shockingly an article in the Oshkosh Daily in 1937 wrote that the text was “amazingly smooth. No halting parts. A continuity of plot and almost classic clarity obtains.” So if at any point in the year you’re feeling frustrated and bothered by the fact you haven’t met your goals, drop the gripe and get a grip. That’s what Wright would have done.

2. Gac Filipaj

For nearly two decades the 53-year-old Yugoslav native mopped floors and emptied garbage cans as a school janitor at Columbia University. He fled his hometown in 1992 during a civil war and ethnic cleansing, and when he arrived in New York, he chose to work as a janitor at Columbia because the university offers tuition free courses to employees. First Filipaj had to learn English. Then he enrolled in Columbia’s Classics program, studying Greek and Latin by day, and cleaning the school by night. In May 2012, he graduated from Columbia with honors.

3. Jean-Dominique Bauby

In 1995, the editor-in-chief of French ELLE suffered a major stroke and slipped into a coma at age 43. Bauby regained consciousness, but his entire body, save for his left eyelid, was paralyzed. Still, with a mind alert and Bauby was determined to write. Using only his one eye, he began working on his memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, with the help of a transcriber. ”It is a simple enough system,” he explained, the transcriber reads “off the alphabet . . . until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word.” Each word took about two minutes to produce, and during the course of a year, Bauby managed to tell his story of life in paralysis.

4. Malala Yousafzai

You’ve most certainly heard about the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the face on her school bus by a Taliban extremist after she posted about her desire for education on her blog, despite the Taliban takeover of her home in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Malala recovered, wrote a book, I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and went on to continue to fight for the right to education. When she spoke at the United Nations she said:

Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same.

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